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Lawrence W. Britt: 14 Characteristics of Fascism

Historian Lawrence Britt studied the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia), and Pinochet (Chile) and found they had 14 elements in common. He calls these the identifying characteristics of fascism.

  1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
    Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
  2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
    Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, and long incarcerations of prisoners.
  3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
    The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists…
  4. Supremacy of the Military
    Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
  5. Rampant Sexism
    The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation.
  6. Controlled Mass Media
    Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation or by sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Government censorship and secrecy, especially in war time, are very common.
  7. Obsession with National Security
    Fear of hostile foreign powers is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
  8. Religion and Government are Intertwined
    Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.
  9. Protection of Corporate Power
    The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
  10. Suppression of Labor Power 
    Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed .
  11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
    Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.
  12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment
    Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
  13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
    Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
  14. Fraudulent Elections
    Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

This post is a summary of Fascism, Anyone? by Lawrence W. Britt published in 2003 by Free Inquiry magazine.


20 comments on “Lawrence W. Britt: 14 Characteristics of Fascism

  1. Dinah Kudatsky
    February 19, 2023

    These (and other similar) lists which give an exegesis on the components of fascism should be required study in middle and high schools. Tragically, there are too many leaders inclined toward fascism who love power and are frightened of free thought, criticism of alternative views, kids who define themselves differently. These leaders are the book-burners; they are easy to spot, from the Tennessee Scopes “monkey trial” prosecutors, to Hitler, to the so-called “Christian” nationalists (white supremacists), Palin, Falwell, Trump, DeSantis, et al. The American Taliban and the fundamentalists of every country are the same. Parents should present this list to their kids, and also buy every banned book they can find, read them as a family, and share them with their neighbors.


  2. Hawthorne Merriweather
    February 8, 2023

    The 14 Characteristics of Fascism, as written by Lawrence W. Britt is not accurately reflected in the main part of this article. This is one of the plethora of changed and mutated lists that have been doctored to appeal to a particular political ideology. The article and list as originally published is available for free on the Free Inquiry website. The link above to a copy of the article appears to be accurately reproduced.


    • Vox Populi
      February 8, 2023

      Thank you, Hawthorne. In what way is the article here inaccurate?


  3. Bruce
    October 1, 2020

    Of worth noting is that Britt published this list in 2003, long before the Trump era.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lonnie G Hopson
    December 28, 2019

    If you consider what is good for the individual and implement those policies you cannot help but strengthen the whole! If you place the collective first, you deny the individual his/her inherent rights guaranteed by the simple act of being born. No one person has the “right” to tell another how to live, where to live, or anything else! I don’t try to tell y’all how to live your every day lives, what makes you think you have the right to tell ME how to live? SOCIALISM, COMMUNISM, FASCISM, MARXISM, all have failed! Any time a small, medium, or large group has tried to tell everybody else what to do we have wound up with millions of dead! Anarchy, where you are responsible for your own protection is preferable to “Democracy!”


    • James joseph
      December 5, 2022

      Capitalism is the worse offender of all


      • Dinah Kudatsky
        February 19, 2023

        Yes. UNREGULATED Capitalism is fascism’s first cousin.


    • Slingblade123
      April 29, 2023

      I’ve long said that if Republicans can no longer win elections democratically due to the massive unpopularity of their platform and the fascism they actively encourage and engage in, they won’t abandon their platform.

      They’ll abandon democracy.

      These people are dangerous.


  5. daniel r. cobb
    May 31, 2019

    Our nation is past the point of no return. We are compelled to impeach. Trump’s complete hijacking of the democratic process, his campaign’s continuous contacts with Russian state actors during our election, his elevation of white supremacy and misogyny as tools of the state, his administration’s deep corruption, and his continuous efforts to deny the authority of the FBI, Mueller, Congress, and other agencies and jurisdictions to investigate criminality and uphold our laws, all of this and much more as detailed in the Mueller Report, mandate, require, compel us to impeach Donald Trump. This administration is arguably the most corrupt in American history, and to protect the sanctity and integrity of our treasured democracy and the laws that define America, we must impeach. To fail to impeach is to abandon our history and open the door to future leaders who are ever more criminal, more tyrannical, more contemptuous of our laws and our rights. We must impeach. We cannot shirk this responsibility, this debt owed to the authors of the Constitution, the laws that have held us together as a nation, and the more than 1.1 million American soldiers who have died protecting it. We must impeach.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Vox Populi
      May 31, 2019

      I completely agree, Daniel. Impeachment of Trump is imperative. He is destroying our country.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Daniel
    July 31, 2018

    As a self-identifying ‘progressive’ I feel that this list panders to my own biases too much, thereby emphasizing and de-emphasizing various historic and intrinsic characteristics of fascism (and the totalitarianism we tend to imagine when we say the word ‘fascism’). I would make the following additions or changes to several points:

    1. An extreme form of nationalism crafted to serve the regime rather than the national interest. Superficial patriotism abounds. National traditions are recast into an historically inaccurate caricature of themselves. Protectionism and economic nationalism go hand-in-hand with cultural nationalism. National symbols are sometimes replaced with symbols of the ruling party.

    2. I would add ‘disappearing’ of enemies to the list of crimes against humanity that might be committed.

    3. We may as well add conservatives to the list of potential enemies. Any form of political divergence can become a problem. Some conservatives may be duped into working with fascists but this hardly does them any good in the medium to long term.

    4. The militarization and regimentation of society itself, starting with paramilitary youth groups and party political security forces. The military may think the fascists are working for them but will soon discover that it is the other way around.

    5. Condemnation of anything deemed ‘decadent’ or ‘deviant’ by the ruling party. This can include sexist and homophobic attacks on non-standard gender roles, sexualities and family structures.

    8. Religion is subverted to the aims of the regime. Any religion that resists this is persecuted. Both world religions (which demand loyalty to an international faith community) and ethno-religious groups (which are distinct from the mass of society) are potential threats to the regime.

    9. The power of both capital and labour is incorporated into the structures of the state. All labour unions are replaced by one big union. Businesses may still be privately owned but are increasingly controlled by the regime.

    10. Obsession with personal characteristics of beauty, health, fitness, strength and will-power. This can manifest in regime-driven idealization of sporting heroes and war veterans. It can also take the form of restricting the right to have children, forcibly sterilizing the disabled, and euthanizing the chronically ill.

    12. As well as the police, I would add the rise of surveillance personnel and informant networks to this point.

    13. The abolition of personal confidence and security – even cronies are forever at risk of falling out of favour with the leadership. The regime might be corrupt but it might instead practice a twisted form of integrity serving extreme ideals rather than the desires of government personnel.

    I think these points give a more well-rounded sense of the signs and dangers of fascism which would connect to a wider audience than the 14 Points as originally written.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Charlie Knight
    August 24, 2017

    These are comments about how one section of the world views fascism, but like the term “communism” what we have seen in “modern times” is NOT what the government is expected to be. I am not as quick to throw out a system based upon it’s not being operated as it was intended by some. I see Fascism as a RESPONSE to excessive greed and personal aggrandizement at the expense of the working poor as the National Socialist German Workers Party also was. And to a degree what Marx tried to portray Communism as for his clients, the Bolsheviks. And frighteningly it is also what happens in some “progressive” governments. The point is that we need to stress first the good of all, then the individual good. Not force upon all the things the minority or those in power want and try to gain from them personally. Thomas Jefferson formed the Democratic-Republican party to reflect a Republic that elected its representatives Democratically. This country (USA) has operated best when it has considered what was best for all above what is best for a small group or the few in power at that time. I tend to think the same is true of any government anywhere; it functions best when it considers first and foremost the good of all the people and secondarily or somewhere “down the line” come the desires and aspirations of the few.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Katie Barber
      September 29, 2022

      are the obligatory, ” actually anti-fascism is the real fascism” comment that is so common amongst right wingers who all sound the same, despite being “free open-minded thinkers”


  8. familyrulesbyplainjane
    August 23, 2017


    Liked by 1 person

  9. robert okaji
    August 23, 2017

    Reblogged this on O at the Edges and commented:
    Sound familiar? Scarecrow certainly thinks so.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. melpacker
    August 23, 2017

    Sounds frighteningly familiar…..suggest all who read this post it on your own FB page as well.

    Liked by 2 people

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